One of our one-percenters was flying into the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and she snapped a photo of all the land that lay undeveloped along the glide path of her plane. In typically Kenyan fashion, our one-percenter had this to say,
"Excellent landing & service @KenyaAirways as we returned from SA. I pondered as I captured the approach on the 'idle land' around the capital @UKenyatta @Sonko Lets build 'decanting sites' on unutilised land to deliver #AgendaHousingKe"
It's typically Kenyan to have an epiphany that almost always calls for A Simple Solution. Our one-percenter epitomises the tyranny under which Kenyans have suffered for decades. Nairobi has a housing shortage. Nairobi and its environs have "idle" land. Therefore, build on that idle land and the housing shortage will disappear. The nitty-gritty of public policy that underpins all successful public programmes isn't even hinted at. Instead, we are reminded again and again that world class cities like New York, London, Seoul, Tokyo, Mumbai and Buenos Aires have no idle land near any of their major civilian airports, as if Nairobi can measure up to these cities in terms of even the most basic of services for the vast majority of its residents who are overwhelmingly not one-percenters.
We have witnessed how harrowing lives can be made when policies are made, imposed and implemented without proper planning. Devolution of public health services(save for those services offered by national referral hospitals) comes to mind. A combination of factors have contributed mightily to the disaster unfolding in delivery of public health services. The resistance from ministry mandarins loath to give up their power to the chicanery of ministers, their loyal underlings and the satellite of buzzards they all seem to attract has led to one public health disaster to another culminating in the employment, at exorbitant public expense, foreign doctors to serve hard-struck Kenyans.
If the same cavalier attitude is brought to "affordable" housing, a "development" sector that is synonymous with grand corruption, "decanting sites" will become permanent "informal" settlements and whatever plan there might have been to ensure that as many Kenyans afford decent housing will go up in the same puff of smoke that "mobile clinics" went up in.
It is, of course, the responsibility of elected representatives to highlight public policy issues that appear to have been given short shrift by members of the executive. It is not the responsibility of elected representatives to become cheerleaders for every cockamamie scheme to finagle ever more billions from the national treasury at the people's expense. It has been more than a year since our one-percenter made it to the National Assembly. Her tenure is notable for her social media presence. It is, though, devoid of any tangible successes, programmes or policy proposals. She is not the only one. If the future mother-of-all-scams, #AgendaHousingKe", gets off the ground because she and her parliamentary colleagues were busy fantasising about "decanting sites" on "idle" land, you can't say that you didn't see the signs.